Kalge’s wife had left their house, accusing him and his family of harassing her. As a result they had to spend several days in jail. He is now taking on the law that makes villians out of even good men — and there are many like him.
Who wronged whom
Recalling the agony, Mahesh says, “We were about to shift to a new flat. My wife was angry as my parents were to stay with us.
On December 28, ‘07, she gulped poison and immediately informed my mother. My mother promptly took her to Lokmanya Hospital where she was admitted and cured.”
He adds, “After she recovered, my mother informed her parents about the incident. That evening, they arrived with 50-60 people, abused and manhandled my parents, my married sister and me.
Then they filed a case against us under Indian Penal Code section 498 (A) and we were arrested. The next day, when we applied for bail, the police slapped us with IPC section 306 for abetting suicide.
We languished in jail for 27 days while my wife went to live with her parents taking 37 tolas of gold and other belongings from my house. That was the last time I saw my son. He was five months old.”
“In November ‘08, a chargesheet was filed against us. Then I realised she was still alive, living with her parents. I started looking for information on misuse of laws and came to know about SFII.
Mission save the family
|According to the law|
Article 498A of the IPC states that if a husband or any of his relatives subject the wife to cruelty which could drive her to commit suicide, seriously harm her physically or mentally in any way or unlawfully demand any
Today Mahesh is a member of Save Family, a subsidiary of the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), and vehemently promotes that various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, under the relevant provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriages Act and Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 are being used by women to harass men.
To support his argument, he quotes the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, “The acts once promulgated to protect women are now taking their toll on men.
While 52,483 married men committed suicide , in ‘05, across the country in ‘06 it went up to 55,452. The number of married women committing suicide was 28,188 in ‘05 and 29,869 in ‘07.”
“NCRB’s findings reveal unscrupulous women who attack husbands and in-laws with frivolous dowry torture complaints is a chief causes of suicides among married men. Section 498 (A) of the IPC has been handy for women to torture their husbands and in-laws.”
Women are not abusers
Of course, womens’ organisations refuse to buy his argument. Julia George, a lawyer and nun associated with the Pune’s Stree Wani says, “The law is never misused. Women do not usually take such drastic measures.”
Dr Neelam Gorhe, founder, Stree Adhar Kendra, says, “Most women never misuse laws. There may be few cases where they have acted on the wrong advice of lawyers and resorted to such tactics, but most harassment cases are real. If conviction rates in such cases is as low as 10 per cent, it is because they aren’t investigated well.”
SIFF-ting through issues
But Mahesh refuses to accept this. “We are not against laws that protect women. We are against women who misuse them. We are specifically fighting against the abuse of old, sick people and kids.
We are fighting against wives who force men to disown parents and live as per their wishes or force in-laws on their husbands.
We’re trying to create awareness of ‘legal terrorism’ going on in the name of women’s empowerment. We are trying to protect the Indian family system from the onslaught of greedy and unscrupulous women,” he says.
“In Pune, SIFF has successfully executed mass awareness campaigns by staging dharnas and rallies to encourage victims to come forward and protest against the misuse of laws by women.
We hold counselling sessions, run a toll-free helpline for harassed men and offer advice online. We are working constructively,” he says.
Mahesh accuses the cops of being high-handed when acting on harassment complaints by women. “The law is partial to begin with. To make matters worse, police do not spare senior citizens alleged to be tormentors.
They are detained, arrested and put in jail on the basis of the complainant’s word. Proper investigations don’t take place and at times there are attempts to misrepresent the case to the judiciary,” he says.
The law’s fair
But Gorhe denies the law is partial. She insists, “Laws are not made in a hurry. All aspects are considered while drafting bills and promulgating them.
Laws are the pillar of the Indian Constitution. We never misrepresent cases. All we do is encourage distressed women to take a stand and help them.
If a woman rightfully demands money for her sustenance, how can it be an abuse of the law? This is nothing but propaganda by men who have trouble with the law,” she fumes.
Julia George feels such cases must be handled with care. “Even I avoid asking women to file cases under the IPC which may result in widening the rift. Normally women too are sensitive towards their spouses and in-laws and are reluctant to lodge criminal cases.
To file a criminal case, a woman has to struggle a lot and convince police officials. I feel the Domestic Violence Act is the best tool to deal with such cases. It leaves open the possibility for a reunion,” she says.